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Kruse Foundation says it paid off $2.9 million debt to bank

The Dean V. Kruse Foundation, which runs military and automotive museums in Auburn, announced Friday that it has paid off a multimillion dollar debt, money that was used to build a third museum that never materialized.

The debt of $2.9 million was owed to Farmers State Bank of LaGrange, a creditor of the Kruse Foundation. It was a sum that DeKalb Superior Court Judge Monte L. Brown awarded to the bank in July 2012.

The foundation, which operates the National Military History Center and the Kruse Automotive and Carriage Museum, had spent the money on constructing a building meant for the Andy Granatelli Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, but plans for that museum broke down.

As part of an agreement between the bank and the foundation to clear its debt, the Granatelli building was sold at auction in September 2012 for $995,000Ö to South Dakota classic car collector Dewayne Keiper, who planned to display classic cars and memorabilia in the 22,500-square-foot space.

Yet that sale has fallen through, Kruse foundation spokeswoman Stephanie Kern said Friday, declining to explain to why. A phone message left at Keiper's home Friday evening was not returned.

Now the foundation is looking for a buyer or tenant for the Granatelli building, which has never been used, the foundation said in a statement.

In another effort to eliminate its debt, the foundation auctioned off scores of WWII vehicles and artifacts from the National Military History Center on Dec. 8, 2012. The auction raised more than $2.9 million, the foundation reported days afterward.

On Friday, the foundation said that Christin Loomis has been named the operations director of the National Military History Center, which hosts events, including weddings, meetings and bingo nights.

"All efforts are in place for the museum to become a vibrant community facility to promote major events in northern Indiana," the statement said.